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"Cats in the Garden"

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"You can learn a lot by paying attention to what you scoop"

Many things can influence the physical characteristics of feces. Your cat's diet is a major factor. High quality food generally produces high quality BMs. Ideally you will find one "perfect poop" from each of your cats every 24-36 hours.

perfect poop
The Perfect Poop

Whenever you scoop, be aware of color, shape, consistency, amount, and odor. Notice what "normal" looks like for your cat(s).

What do you want to see?

  • Rich brown color
  • well formed
  • moist enough that litter sticks to it
  • odor should not drive you out of the room
two poops in scoop
Feces from two cats - can you see the differences?

When more than one cat uses a litter pan, subtle differences can tell you a lot. Cats are creatures of habit, if you pay attention you will soon have a pretty good idea what belongs to whom.

  • location in the pan? - individual cats often go in the same spot every time
  • is it buried? - some cats cover some do not
  • if there is hair what color is it? - useful if you have diference color cats
  • size? - a big cat will probably have bigger BM

When you want to take a closer look or when you need to bring a sample to your veterinarian, use a sealable plastic bag - turn it inside out and pick up a specimen.

pick up poop
carpet fibers string together balls of feces in this BM
exam poop
this cat chews on the fringe of an area rug

Constipation

Constipation can be a problem for cats. It may begin with anything that causes painful or difficult defecation, and is often chronic and progressive. Passing dry, hard BMs can be uncomfortable.

Feces gets dry when:

  • it sits in the colon for too long - kitty may be unhappy with litter pan options?
  • a cat is not taking in enough water - kitty fed dry food and not happy with water sources?
  • a cat has kidney disease or diabetes - large volume of urine produced may cause the body to resorb too much water from feces in the colon.

 

classic hairball
a "hairball" can have a tubular shape

Cats swallow hair when they groom. Much of this hair will pass uneventfully and end up in the litter pan, but it can cause problems as it makes its way through the system.

exam poop
"hairy poop" with pointed end

Hair that does not pass out of the stomach may be vomited. Appearance and odor will depend on amount of hair that has accumulated and length of time the hair has been in your cat's stomach.

A large amount of hair in the feces can contribute to a constipation problem. Hair in a bowel movement can also produce a "cling on" (feces that hangs from the anus and then drops off as your kitty exits the litter pan.

J-poop
Doubled over "J" Poop on a bath mat

Another notable finding is the "J poop" These often end up on the floor close to the litter pan. the kitty tries to go in the pan, strains, things don't move, jumps out, still feels the urge, squats, strains some more -- ah! sweet success.

The interesting characteristic is the doubled over end. This can be caused by a perianal hernia - a weakness that allows a bowel movement to get side tracked just inside the anal sphincter. Passing a "doubled over" BM can be painful and may cause a kitty to avoid defecating.

It is worth noting dry, hard, hairy, misshapen and /or infrequent bowel movements because we can often manage these risk factors for constipation by changing diet, litter pan options, water resources, and possibly using a stool softener to avoid progressive irreversible changes in colon function. "Regularity is the Key to Longevity" dmg

Diarrhea

Diarrhea catches our attention much more easily than the subtle changes noted above. (especially if your kitty is not making it to the litter pan) When you seek help from your veterinarian, you will want to be able to describe what the diarrhea looks like

exam poop
It is easy to tell that this is not normal.

You want to note...

  • color
  • consistency
  • blood? mucus?
  • odor
  • when
  • where
  • how much
  • how often and for how long

In addition to your report on the history of the problem your veterinarian will want to examine a sample of the feces for the presence of intestinal parasites.

roundworms
roundworms passed after treatment

These are roundworms that passed after treatment; now this kitty's diarrhea should resolve.

For more information about intestinal parasites that infect cats visit Companion Animal Parasite Council CAPC Cat Parasites

 

Debra M. Givin D.V.M. February 5, 2008

183 Brighton Avenue, Portland, Maine 207-874-2287 - catdoc@maine.rr.com copyright © 1988-2009